The first full round of matches returns after the enforced postponement of the Premier League back in early March and there really is everything to play for!
Both teams to score - yes
Norwich v Southampton
Norwich lost to fellow promoted side Sheffield United 1-0 before the break and they are the only team still to win a point from a losing position so far in the Premier League season.
Their top scorer Teemu Pikku started the season in flying form but goals have dried up somewhat since. He will have to get back to his best goal-scoring form and quickly if Norwich are to stand any chance of survival, but I just can’t see it happening.
Southampton on the other hand, despite losing five of their last six matches in all competitions, are a decent side with an exceptional manager in Ralph Hasenhuttl. Credit must go to the club for sticking with him after their 9-0 hammering at home by Leicester City back in October and I fancy them to finish comfortably in mid-table, although I think they may have to settle for a point in this one.
Manchester United to win
Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United
Spurs drew with Burnley last time out and find themselves in eighth place, four points adrift of fifth-placed United and seven behind Chelsea in fourth, so a win is absolutely vital to their top-four chances.
They will have been buoyed by the return to fitness of their main man Harry Kane although they will certainly miss the suspended Dele Alli.
United fans are likely to be licking their lips at the prospect of Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes starting together for the first time in what could become a midfield partnership to compare with any other in world football. They will also be delighted to see Marcus Rashford back and fit again.
Manchester United’s form was improving drastically before the Premier League break. They went five games unbeaten in the league, including wins over Chelsea and Manchester City whereas Spurs seemed to be going in the opposite direction. Assuming that both teams pick up where they left off, I fancy United to secure a solid away win.
Half-time/Full-time - draw/draw
Watford v Leicester City
Watford lost to Crystal Palace 1-0 before the break but I think Nigel Pearson has really changed the atmosphere at Watford since he took over.
With players such as the lightning-quick Ismaïla Sarr and the ever-dependable captain Troy Deeney who always leads by example, I fancy Watford to get out of trouble at the wrong end of the table.
Leicester beat Aston Villa 4-0 in what was the final PL game before the enforced break, and their first win in their last five Premier League games, but there is no doubting their quality and the great job that Brendan Rodgers has done since taking the manager’s job.
In nine Premier League meetings between the two, there hasn’t been a single draw but with Leicester being away from home and having lost 2-1 on each of their last three visits to Vicarage Road, I think this one could end up with a low-scoring draw.
Arsenal to win to nil
Brighton v Arsenal
Brighton drew 0-0 away at Wolves before the break but since beating Arsenal 2-1 back in December, they have only won once in 15 matches across all competitions.
Arsenal beat West Ham 1-0 before the break with a goal awarded by VAR and they were unbeaten in their last eight games in the Premier League with momentum definitely building under Arteta’s management. However, they suffered a disappointing defeat and performance at Manchester City mid-week and will be really keen to get back to winning ways.
Despite Brighton being unbeaten in the last 4 meetings between these two sides I just can’t see them getting a positive result this time. I really like Brighton and admire the way they have built and run the Club and training facilities over recent seasons but I do fear for their Premier League future, especially given the difficult run-in they face. I fancy Arsenal to bounce back in style.
Anytime goalscorer - Raul Jimenez
West Ham United v Wolverhampton Wanderers
West Ham lost 1-0 to Arsenal in their last match before the break, leaving them with just one win and five losses in their last seven Premier League games. The Hammers had also failed to keep a clean sheet in their last ten games in all competitions, so I think the enforced break may have come at a good time for them. Their injured players should be back fit and available, and I think they have enough quality in their squad to get away from the relegation zone over the coming weeks.
However, Wolves are an exceptional side with pace on the counter-attack and a top-class goalscorer in Raul Jimenez. They don’t concede too many goals and Nuno Espirito Santo has built a really high-quality squad, albeit maybe a little short on numbers.
Wolves have won the last three meetings between the sides with an aggregate score of 6-0 and I fancy them to come away with another three points in their quest for a European place.
Total goals - under 2.5
Bournemouth v Crystal Palace
Bournemouth lost 2-1 to Liverpool before the break and the Cherries have only managed to keep two clean sheets in their last 20 games in all competitions.
Eddie Howe has done an incredible job since he took the manager’s job but I always felt this could be a difficult season for them. In fact, I tipped them way back in August as one of the teams to be relegated and I still think that may be the case. The only glimmer of hope for them is that they normally start each season in great form and pick up plenty of early points. If they can do the same after the re-start of this season, they may just be able to climb out of trouble.
Roy Hodgson is another manager who has done a tremendous job since he took over at Crystal Palace and has led his side to their highest total at this stage of a top division season since 1991-92. Crystal Palace love to play on the counter-attack and will be more than happy to allow Bournemouth plenty of possession. They beat Watford 1-0 before the break which was their third straight 1-0 victory in the Premier League, and I fancy them to make that four on the spin in this intriguing encounter.
Match to end in a draw
Newcastle United v Sheffield United
Newcastle’s 1-0 win over Southampton before the break was their first win in six games in the Premier League but nonetheless I think Steve Bruce has done an excellent job in what has been a difficult season, particularly off the field. United look good for Premier League safety and are also into the quarter final of the FA Cup so I think it’s pretty surprising to hear that Bruce might be ousted if the reported takeover of the Club goes ahead.
Sheffield United are flying high in the league and are unquestionably there on merit but will have been bitterly disappointed that a goal wasn’t given against Aston Villa on Wednesday when the villans’ keeper Orjan Nyland clearly carried the ball over his own line. They don’t concede many goals, they grind out results and are brilliant on the eye as well.
Newcastle won the reverse fixture 2-0 back in December but I fancy this to end in a lively 1-1 draw.
“We couldn’t understand why it wasn’t given” – Enda Stevens.pic.twitter.com/p6WtD5rsgR
— Sheffield United (@SheffieldUnited) June 17, 2020
Chelsea to win & both teams to score
Aston Villa v Chelsea
Aston Villa are normally a decent bet when playing at home with five of their seven wins coming at Villa Park. Despite scoring plenty of Premier League goals, they concede plenty more and if results in the Bundesliga are anything to go by, there is every chance that home advantage may be negated somewhat. They were very fortunate to pick up a point at home to Sheffield United in their first game back after the Covid-19 stoppage, with a rather turgid 0-0 draw; but in many ways, they will probably have been happy with the point.
Chelsea have a nice three-point cushion in 4th place in the league. They have a number of players back fit and have plenty of young players who are getting better by the day. They’ve a manager in Frank Lampard who likes his team to play on the front foot and I can see them scoring a few goals in this one.
Chelsea have won the last five meetings between the sides and I fancy them to secure a comfortable away win.
Liverpool to win to nil
Everton v Liverpool
This will be the 236th Merseyside Derby and after Manchester City’s home win on Wednesday, it won’t be the game when Liverpool win the Premier League for the first time in thirty years, which will no doubt be a huge relief to all Everton fans.
Everton lost 4-0 to Chelsea in their final game before the break while Liverpool beat Bournemouth 2-1 in the League.
Liverpool have kept a clean sheet in each of their last three visits to Goodison Park and I feel they should be good for one more when they head across Stanley Park.
In the reverse fixture, the champions-elect ran out 5-2 winners at Anfield despite the absence of Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah; and given that Everton haven’t won a Merseyside derby since October 2010, I fancy another 3 points for Liverpool to move them one step closer to that elusive title.
Half-time/Full-time - Manchester City/Manchester City
Manchester City v Burnley
Manchester City played their first game back in the Premier League on Wednesday night and finished up cruising to a home win against Arsenal.
I was a little unsure about what sort of team Pep Guardiola would start with and how he would set them up but it was certainly business as usual. They looked full of running and at times, played some fantastic football.
Déjà vu?! 😌
— Manchester City (@ManCity) June 18, 2020
Burnley are having another solid season after flirting with the relegation zone earlier in the campaign. They are now comfortably placed in mid-table and only Liverpool (27), Manchester City (19) and Arsenal (16) have taken more points from their games in the Premier League in 2020 than the Clarets (15).
They have a very solid team and I know they are a great bunch of lads because they own two horses at my stables and they visit regularly. However, they are taking on one of the best teams in the world in Manchester City and have won just 1 of 11 Premier League meetings between the sides, and that was way back in 2015. In fact, Manchester City have won the last three meetings at the Etihad between the sides in all competitions by an aggregate score of 10 goals to one, and I’m going for a comfortable 3-0 victory for the Citizens.